Kevin Durant: Measuring an MVP's value one personal encounter at a time

‘KD & ME’ — Kevin Durant’s impact on Oklahoma is such that it seems almost everyone has their own story of a brush with Kevin. Ford Smith’s is both typical and one in a million.
by Jenni Carlson Published: May 14, 2014
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photo - Ford Smith, center poses for a photo with his brother Parker and parents Brian and Tiffany at their home in Covington, Okla. on Thursday, May 8, 2014. Ford was attacked by a neighbor's dog in December of 2010. He suffered from a punctured trachea and permanent vocal cord damage, and spent 9 days in ICU at OU children's hospital. One of his nurses who worked as a paramedic for Oklahoma City Thunder games was nice enough to arrange an after game visit with Kevin Durant after Ford was released from the hospital. Durant took the time to talk to, play catch, and sign a ball for both Ford and his brother Parker making memories and fans for life. Mother Tiffany described Durant as being  kind way beyond his years and truly a hero to my boys.   Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman
Ford Smith, center poses for a photo with his brother Parker and parents Brian and Tiffany at their home in Covington, Okla. on Thursday, May 8, 2014. Ford was attacked by a neighbor's dog in December of 2010. He suffered from a punctured trachea and permanent vocal cord damage, and spent 9 days in ICU at OU children's hospital. One of his nurses who worked as a paramedic for Oklahoma City Thunder games was nice enough to arrange an after game visit with Kevin Durant after Ford was released from the hospital. Durant took the time to talk to, play catch, and sign a ball for both Ford and his brother Parker making memories and fans for life. Mother Tiffany described Durant as being kind way beyond his years and truly a hero to my boys. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman

Tiffany has since read the book, “Heaven Is for Real,” which recounts a similar experience. But at the time, neither she nor her boys had, so it wasn’t as if Ford was recounting something he’d heard elsewhere.

No one is sure what happened to Ford, but the morning after his lungs collapsed, a nurse came in and told Tiffany and Brian that Ford had a small laceration on the bridge of his nose.

It was in the shape of a cross.

A couple days later, Ford moved from ICU to a regular room. And a couple days after that, he went home.

But before the Smiths left the hospital, they were talking about what they were going to do once Ford was released. Among their plans was a trip to see the Thunder play. Both of the boys were big sports fans — Brian is the football coach at Covington-Douglas High School — and a trip to The Peake seemed like a good way to celebrate what they’d survived.

One of the nurses caught wind of their plans. She happened to also work as an in-arena paramedic during games, so she told a couple of the Thunder representatives who she knew about Ford.

Would it be possible for him to meet KD?

The request was taken to Durant as well as Russell Westbrook, both of whom agreed, and after the game, the Smiths met the superstars. Durant had family and friends there in the arena waiting on him, but he came over and shook hands with everyone in the family, asked about what had happened, then passed basketballs back and forth with the boys.

He posed for a photo and signed the basketballs before saying goodbye.

The boys were almost speechless, but afterward, they couldn’t stop talking about the whole thing.

“Did you see how big his hands were?” they marveled. “Did you see how long his fingers were?”

Since that night, there has been more surgery for Ford, including one in Boston with a doctor who has repaired vocal cord damage on the likes of Adele and Keith Urban. Ford has scar tissue between his vocal cords that keeps them from coming all the way together and makes it so that he can’t change the pitch of his voice much.

He’ll likely have more surgeries on that as he gets older and his voice starts to change.

But amid tough times, that meeting with KD will forever be a great memory. Those minutes were precious.

“You see him as such a star,” Tiffany said, “but to see them step down and just be a person is really humbling.

“It meant a lot.”

Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.

by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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